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Of PAMB’s decision on NNNP 1st of three parts

It was quite unfortunate that the body mandated to ensure the protection of the Northern Negros Natural Park in Negros Occidental also made a decision that will eventually lead to a more compromising situation on the ecological values and security of the protected area.

Last week, 34 members of the Protected Area Management Board of the NNNP, comprised mostly of mayors and barangay captains from 11 cities and municipalities covering the PA, arrived at a controversial decision by voting against the recommendation of their technical working group to demolish structures that have been constructed in the area without prior permit.

Governor Alfredo Marañon Jr., who is acting as the co-chair of the PAMB, along with 10 others, voted in the affirmative.

The recommendation of the TWG came after the finding of its members that several private vacation houses and resorts have been constructed in the NNNP without the necessary permit from the PAMB and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

Andre Untal, NNNP Protected Area superintendent and, at the same time, the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources officer in Negros Occidental, had issued cease-and-desist orders to 91 individuals, who have been found to construct vacation houses in the area without permit, including Mayors Jose Max Ortiz of Salvador Benedicto and Andrew Montelibano of Murcia, both are PAMB members, who also voted contrary to the recommendation of the TWG.

The recommendation of the TWG and Untal’s action are grounded on the provision of the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS) Act, or Republic Act 7586, of which the NNNP is covered, being a declared protected area, that specifically prohibits the construction and maintenance of any kind of structure, fence or enclosures, and conducting any business enterprise without a permit.

PAMB members, who voted against the TWG’s recommendation, are in the position that such provision is not applicable in the NNNP, given that numerous infrastructures already exist in the PA and many of which have no permits. The demolition of these structures would result in the dislocation of settlers, such as the indigenous people, according to the position presented during the PAMB meeting last week.

It is very important that any decisions to be made affecting the NNNP should consider the very purpose by which it is declared as a PA under the NIPAS. This is supposedly the preamble of any decision of the PAMB as the site-based body responsible for the planning, peripheral protection and general administration of the PA.

As a component of the NIPAS, the NNNP enjoys a certain level of protection and restriction from human activities, because it is a very important area that offers a wide-range of ecological, economic, cultural and social services and benefits to the people, which is usually being undermined in the decision-making processes.

As a student of protected landscape management and a protected area practitioner for a good number of years, I would like to claim that the protected area system is, in fact, the highest modality in conservation, because it has numerous prohibitions intended to protect nature’s higher values in protecting the people and providing them with sustainable benefits. We have already destroyed much of our natural environment and most of the wonders of nature can only be found now in protected areas, like the NNNP.

Is the recent PAMB’s decision of help to secure the ecological values of the NNNP, or would it further aggravate the already threaten environment of the PA? (To be continued)*

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